Benefits and Reasoning
Grande Prairie is a growing mid-sized city with a vibrant and diverse population. It acts as a regional hub serving over 301,000 people across Northwestern Alberta, Northern British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories. Over the next 25 years, the Government of Alberta projects Grande Prairie to have one of the largest population growth rates in the province.
While the city thrives across many metrics, crime, and safety are frequently reported as top areas of concern for residents. Crime data confirms the public perception that crime is an issue in the city. The Crime Severity Index for Grande Prairie is significantly higher than both the provincial and national averages.
Grande Prairie may have reached a size and complexity whereby it has outgrown its current municipal policing model (RCMP contract policing). Of Canada’s 100 largest municipalities, of which Grande Prairie is one, the vast majority (79%) are policed by municipal or regional police services and this percentage is even higher for large municipalities that act as the regional hub, like Grande Prairie (85%).
The Police Service Model Review and the Policing Transition Report conclude that a municipal police service would provide the following benefits to Grande Prairie:
- Increased local oversight, accountability, and efficiency offered through a local police commission and local decision-making autonomy;
- Ability to quickly develop policies, programs, and initiatives at the local level to respond to changing public safety needs;
- Procurement and implementation of leading-edge equipment and technology can occur quickly and efficiently;
- Police modernization free of historical encumbrances. The municipal police service is conceptually designed to provide a wide range of public safety services far exceeding that of historical law enforcement and is positioned to evolve with society more nimbly;
- Improved officer recruitment based on local candidate development and in-community police recruit training offered through a partnership with a leading police academy provider;
- Greater officer retention based on officers having stronger community ties and no transfer/relocation policy;
- Overall financial transparency and viability. Grande Prairie would gain control over cost elements and could more readily direct costs with increased granularity than what is available today;
- Community policing costs are projected to be less than what is expected under continued RCMP contract policing; and
Enhanced public safety infrastructure through the local development of:
o An Integrated Public Safety Communication Centre (Dispatch) to serve all City first responders
o A public safety Real Time Operations Centre with 24-hour staffing to provide ongoing situational awareness of public safety in the city and surrounding area
o New specialized policing capability in the form of a local Emergency Response Team (Tactical)
Research, Studies, and Reports
In the City of Grande Prairie 2021 Budget, Council allocated funding for the completion of a Police Services Model Review (PSMR). The review commenced in December 2021 and concluded in September 2022.
The specific objectives of the review were to:
- Complete a comprehensive review of the Grande Prairie RCMP, including associated Municipal Employees, and Grande Prairie Enforcement Services.
- Perform a comparative analysis of police services delivery models to assess viable options for the City of Grande Prairie.
- Undertake a governance review of current and alternate policing options
- Provide the Municipal Police Advisory Committee (MPAC) and City Council with a written report containing the findings of the review and recommendations for consideration
Council received the 119-page review in October of 2022. When the report was received and available to the public, Council spent many, many hours reading this and publicly discussing, learning and asking numerous questions. View the report here.
When Council received the findings and recommendations of the PSMR, the recommended next step was for Council to approve the development of a detailed Transition and Community Engagement Plan to further assess the opportunity to establish a modern municipal police service. The PSMR concluded that regardless of the decision on a Provincial Police Service, the City of Grande Prairie could benefit from an alternative service provider by way of a municipal police service. Further analysis was recommended.
At that time Council directed that a third-party analysis by way of a detailed transition plan (inclusive of in-depth stakeholder engagement) be completed to truly assess the viability of a municipal police service for the City of Grande Prairie. MNP LLP was subsequently retained by the City to develop a Policing Transition Report (PTR).
The Transition Plan was to describe in detail the necessary regulatory, planning, community engagement, staffing, equipment, training, records management, technological and operational steps, funding requirements and timeline for the new municipal service to become the police service of jurisdiction for the City of Grande Prairie. Council did approve that recommendation.
The MNP-led PTR was reviewed by Council on February 21, 2023. View the report here.
In both the Police Service Model Review and the Transition Plan, municipalities across Alberta and Canada were consulted. In Alberta, every Municipality that operates under a municipal police model was reviewed including Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Camrose, Edmonton, Lacombe, Taber and Calgary. These conversations and the numerous consultations done across Canada were extremely valuable.
The Police Services Model Review (PSMR) found that, in general, the operational front-line policing services provided by RCMP members in Grande Prairie are considered acceptable. The police officers assigned to the community are viewed as hardworking and well-regarded.
Despite these efforts and substantial investment, the City of Grande Prairie continues to greatly exceed both provincial and national averages in relation to Crime Severity Indexes. The PSMR team identified there is sufficient reason to believe that the municipal policing arrangement with the RCMP may not be viable in the future. This is attributed to:
- Significant recruiting challenges associated with RCMP national recruiting efforts;
- Inability to retain senior constables in the community due to RCMP staffing and relocation policies;
- Challenges being sufficiently sensitive and responsive to Grande Prairie’s specific local needs and circumstances;
- Bureaucratic policies and procurement systems associated with a large national government organization; and
- Ever-increasing costs with little municipal influence arising from federal control of RCMP.
The Policing Transition Report (PTR) concluded that a move towards a municipal police service aligns with the trend of police modernization. The PTR highlights several potential benefits and opportunities available to the City of Grande Prairie through a transition to a municipal police service model including increased local oversight and efficiency, increased community sensitivity and responsiveness, direct accountability to the community and taxpayers, improved officer retention based on stronger community ties, overall financial transparency and viability. In addition, a municipal police service delivers community policing costs that are estimated to be similar to what is expected under continued RCMP contract policing.
The research phase of both the Police Services Model Review and the Police Transition Report involved travel and consultation with police services, police commissions, police regulatory bodies and chief of police associations in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and internationally.
The City of Surrey was visited twice over the past year and while there is a similarity in that both Grande Prairie and Surrey are currently policed through a contract with the RCMP, there are significant differences that exist between the two in terms of size, demographics, economy, politics, policing and approach to a policing transition. The project teams have incorporated lessons learned from these consultations.
Accountability and Oversight
Municipal police services must operate following provincial policing legislation, regulations and standards.
The municipal police will be locally overseen by and directly accountable to a municipal police commission. The Commission provides local governance and oversight, represents the local interests of the community, and ensures financial accountability. The Commission also hires the Chief of Police and approves the police service budget, annual business plan, annual report, and long-term strategic plan.
Standards and Audit
The Provincial government monitors compliance with the Alberta Policing Standards and Alberta Policing Oversight Standards through independent audits conducted by Provincial employees.
Police Conduct Concerns
Municipal police conduct concerns will be investigated and adjudicated by an independent agency called the Police Review Commission (PRC). The PRC will have responsibility for receiving police conduct complaints, carrying out investigations and conducting disciplinary hearings in Alberta.
Serious Incidents Involving Police
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) will investigate cases of death, serious injuries and serious allegations of misconduct involving the police.
City Council's control of the police is restricted to authorizing the annual budget and ratifying the appointment of the Chief of Police and collective agreements for the Police Officers.
Stakeholder engagement was a critical component of the Policing Transition Report development. Engagement efforts included stakeholder interviews, focus groups, presentations, an online survey, a website and multiple community open house events. Opportunities to participate were broadly messaged via news releases, City website updates, social media, sponsored Facebook ads, local media and radio ads.
The following key themes were reflected by many community members:
- Current police are viewed as a net positive
- Policing needs to meet the needs of equity deserving groups
- RCMP are sometimes perceived to be bureaucratic
- General desire for a localized approach to policing
- Policing needs to better understand and incorporate the effect of social factors into their operations
The following misconceptions were also revealed regarding a standalone municipal police service:
- A belief that municipal police would be trained to a lower standard than the RCMP (in fact, training timelines and curricula are equivalent and in line with Provincial Policing Standards and best practices)
- That the RCMP is 100% federally funded and that a municipal service would cost prohibitively more (in fact, policing costs are the City’s largest annual operating expense and evidence suggests similar or even possibly lower cost structures accessible through a municipal police service)
The engagement activities centered around:
- Educating participants about policing in Canada, Alberta and locally
- Reviewing the current state of policing in Grande Prairie
- Findings from the 2022 Police Service Model Review
- Questions about their local policing priorities and service delivery preferences
- Comments and concerns
The engagement results helped the internal project team and third-party consultant recommend what they believe to be the most appropriate policing model for Grande Prairie.
Yes. The City’s insurance provider was engaged as part of the financial modelling and these costs are included in the financial analysis.
The funding requirements associated with the 5-year start-up/transition to a municipal police service are projected to be approximately $16,340,387 plus a suggested contingency of up to $2,646,637. These costs include transitional staffing, policing equipment, fleet assets, technology, infrastructure, recruitment, training and professional services. These costs do not rely on any additional annual revenue or any automated traffic enforcement (photo radar).
On February 22, 2023, the Government of Alberta announced that they would commit $9.7 million towards years 1 to 3 of the transition and is currently working on the City’s request for years 4 to 5. The Province of Alberta has the intent to support all 5 years. Council has no intent to fund a police service transition by burdening ratepayers.
This initial funding gives the City of Grande Prairie confidence that the Province will support us.
Following the transition, the annual operating budget of the municipal police service is projected by the third-party consultant to be less than that of the projected current state RCMP contract budget (equally adjusted for inflation).
How were these costs determined?
A detailed costing (down to the price of a toque), on all aspects of policing expenditures, was assessed by the project team and third party validated by MNP. The specific costs were determined following an analysis of both current and future Grande Prairie policing expenditures as well as expenditures at benchmark municipal police services. Where costing estimates needed further refinement, specific industries were approached for pricing.
No. The City of Grande Prairie is the 100% owner of the RCMP police building which includes identification (forensics) equipment and secure holding cells. All other equipment (radios, computers, weapons etc.) are 90 per cent paid for by the City of Grande Prairie. The City has the option of keeping this equipment by paying the 10 per cent remaining value or, alternatively, requesting the RCMP pay the City the 90 per cent.
Yes. The municipal police will have over 225 employees and will offer a wide range of career opportunities.
These include canine, tactical, major crimes, drug investigation, forensics, traffic, pact, management and several more.
No. Transfers outside the community would be restricted to temporary assignments.
Only 20% of Canadians are primarily policed by the RCMP. This means there are many policing jurisdictions across Canada. Well-developed policies and procedures exist in all jurisdictions to ensure effective cross-jurisdictional policing.
Integrated units such as the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) which have an office in Grande Prairie, are also critical resources for managing cross-jurisdictional investigations.
All police services in Canada have access to national police services systems provided by the RCMP. This allows for the necessary flow of policing-related information across jurisdictions. Further, the municipal police would partner with the Criminal Intelligence Service of Alberta, the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
Specialized policing services in Alberta are required to be maintained by the Provincial Police Service. The Province of Alberta contracts the RCMP as the Provincial Police Service per the Provincial Police Service Agreement (PPSA).
Specialized services include activities such as:
- Emergency response teams
- Police dog services
- Explosive disposal
- Public order units
- Major crimes
- Air services
- Collision reconstruction
- Underwater recovery
Grande Prairie RCMP:
Alberta municipalities policed by the RCMP access most specialized services through the PPSA. Depending on the community’s size and the frequency of use, some specialized policing services may be included in the municipal policing operation. In Grande Prairie, police dog services and forensics are embedded in the municipal RCMP detachment.
The Municipal Police Service can provide specialized policing services internally through another police agency or the Provincial Police Service Agreement (PPSA).
Internal specialized services are recommended to include an emergency response team, police dog service, major crimes and forensics. Additional specialized services, if required, would be requested through the PPSA or by a memorandum of understanding with another municipal police service.
No. The RCMP has an authorized strength of 110 police officers and a funding commitment for 104, as 6 positions are unfunded to accommodate incoming/outgoing transfers.
In no year, has the RCMP been able to staff the 104 positions. The highest number of positions ever achieved has been just under 98 on an annual basis.
The municipal police service has been conceptually designed to replace or exceed the number of actual police officers serving the community, not decrease it.
Where some confusion may arise, maybe from the transition staffing projections. It is true, the municipal police are projected to take 5-years to achieve a full complement of police officers. During this time, the municipal police will first augment the RCMP and later, the RCMP would augment the municipal police. This will maintain the necessary police staffing levels as this will be required and overseen by Alberta’s Director of Law Enforcement.
The RCMP will be transitioned out over several years by Municipal Police Officers, not Peace Officers.
Peace Officers have more limited law enforcement duties and are trained and equipped for those specific duties. Peace Officers are used to supplement the police, not replace them.
The municipal police service will see the current Peace Officer Program absorbed into the police service and placed under the operational management and direction of the Chief of Police. Several recent studies and committees across Canada and globally have recommended that a tiered call-response model replace traditional policing response to further improve community safety and policing efficiency.
Recruitment and Training
No. The Alberta Police Recruit Guidelines are required to be followed by the municipal police and these requirements are now comparable, if not more stringent than the current RCMP standards.
The duration (26 weeks) and curriculum of basic police cadet training are very similar between the RCMP and Alberta municipal police. Differences would include:
- The RCMP train nationally in Regina, SK
- RCMP cadets are not employees but are paid a $ 525-week allowance
- RCMP cadets do not receive training on Alberta Provincial Laws or Municipal Bylaws
Municipal Police Service:
- The municipal police will train locally in a newly instituted facility
- Municipal police cadets are employees and are paid a full salary and benefits
- Municipal police cadets will receive training in Alberta Provincial Laws, Grande Prairie Bylaws and local diversity/equity/and inclusion.
Yes. The municipal police will also be member of the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams and officers will have the opportunity to take assignments on provincial units.
An environmental scan of mid-size police agencies in Canada that service remote regional hubs like Grande Prairie was conducted during the policing review.
Although the overall number of candidates was down from past decades, none of the benchmark services reported concerns over the availability of qualified police recruits. All the benchmarks had a heavy focus on local development and recruitment of candidates. A municipal service is also afforded more latitude to implement innovative approaches and incentives to attract officers.
Retention of experienced officers was also not reported to be a concern. Municipal police officers are not subject to transfer policies and most municipal officers spend their career within the community.
The Grande Prairie Police Service will provide training that is equivalent to or better than the RCMP's training program. This includes training in applied police sciences, firearm training, defensive tactics, driving, fitness, drill and deportment, and call patrol simulation training.
The Alberta Police Recruit Guidelines are required to be followed by the municipal police and these requirements are comparable, if not more stringent than the current RCMP standards.
Differences in Recruitment
- Much of the application requirements are identical. This includes the requirement to:
- Be a Canadian citizen or have permanent resident status
- Be at least 18 years of age to apply
- Have good written and verbal communication skills
- Possess a Canadian high school diploma or equivalent
- Meet the health, psychological, vision and physical standards
- RCMP recruits must be willing to relocate anywhere within Canada while the Grande Prairie Municipal Police force will be built from local talent that are more familiar with the specific needs and issues of their community.
- Grande Prairie recruits must possess a certificate in standard first aid (must be a minimum 16-hour course, approved through Provincial Occupational Health and Safety). They must also possess a current “Level C” certificate in CPR.
- The RCMP training for Police Officer Cadets (Recruits) is conducted in Regina, SK and is 26 weeks long. Cadets receive a $525/week allowance during training and are required to commit to two years as an RCMP officer following training.
- The Grande Prairie Municipal Police training is delivered locally in collaboration with a provincially accredited partner. Under the current transition plan, recruit constables receive a full salary and benefits during training.
Basic Recruit Training Comparison
Grande Prairie Municipal Police Force
Police Officer Cadet (Recruit) training is conducted in Regina, SK.
Delivered locally in collaboration with a provincially accredited partner.
27 Weeks + 1 Week Orientation